Sports Bar VR Review: Great Atmosphere, Sketchy Controls

Sports Bar VR intrigued me during the PSVR launch. I wasn’t able to pick it up because I was busy with some other things, but then I was able to get a review code from the publisher to check out the new content: checkers, chess, and shuffleboard.

This gave me an opportunity to try the entire experience for the first time, and it turns out Sports Bar VR is one of the more immersive virtual reality environments. Unfortunately the controls are a little touchy, especially when sitting, which somewhat dampens the experience.

For a $19.99 launch game, it definitely has potential, especially with an update already coming in less than a month after release. Here’s how Sports Bar VR holds up on Sony’s PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR.

The Bar Games

Immediately upon starting the game, you’ll find yourself in what looks like your typical corner sports bar. There are a few tutorials to calibrate everything and teach you the buttons, but after that, you’re free to roam the bar however you choose.

There are a variety of games in the bar you can play, and once you get the hang of moving around, navigating between them is a cinch. Here’s how each game fares:

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Billiards – It takes a few minutes to get used to the controls, but once you do, they’re overall not bad. One annoyance I had was that I choose right handed, it still had my cue backwards. After switching controllers, I was able to maneuver around the table easy enough, but some shots were a little harder than I expected to pull off.

The tables can be customized, though you’ll need to collect XP to do it. At any point, you can make a beer bottle appear in your hand and set it on the table, throw it across the bar at a virtual patron, or just smash it over your opponent’s head when he wins. Unfortunately, you can’t steal his wallet or sleep with his wife after.

Grade: B+

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Skee Ball – I was already 6’2″ at 12 years old, so when my friends and I played skee ball at Peter Piper, I just reached in and dropped the ball in the center to maximize our ticket earnings. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option in VR skee ball so I had to rely on my own skill.

The on-screen animation of the controller seemed awkward in this one, as it required you to invert your hand to point the trigger up. Perhaps I just misunderstood it – either way I tossed the heavy balls the same way I would in real life and earned low point totals the same way I would in real life.

Grade: B+

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Air Hockey – I’m always down for a quick game of air hockey while at the arcade, so I couldn’t pass it by in Sports Bar VR. Once you get started, it’s pretty easy to get hooked. Soon I was angling shots and completely forgetting I wasn’t in a real sports bar.

The feeling instantly faded when I started to struggle with the controls following my hand movements. Then I remembered I’m just playing a launch title.

Grade: A

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Darts – Throwing darts was one of the experiences I was most looking forward to, but it wasn’t as good as I hoped. For one, although the physics of the skee b all, air hockey disk, and pool balls felt realistic, the darts simply felt broken. Unlike other reviewers I was able to hit the board fine (maybe they just suck), but the darts didn’t feel like they should.

Also, I wasn’t able to select from all the game types available on any electronic dart board (which this board clearly is) so I was stuck manually keeping score, which is a bit difficult with a VR headset on.

Grade: D

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Chess – In the corners of the bar where all the loungers are, you can now take a seat and play a game of chess. Being the only game where you’re actually supposed to be sitting, I hoped the controls would fare better than they did in some of the other games where I really should be standing.

Unfortunately, it was difficult to maneuver chess pieces into the intended squares with precision (and without knocking over other pieces). I hoped they’d reset, but they didn’t, and I was stuck spending more energy keeping the board in order than actually focusing on strategy.

Grade: D

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Checkers – While the chess pieces were difficult to maneuver around without knocking things over, checkers was a different story. Still hard to place pieces exactly on the square you want, you’re easily able to play a quick game of checkers.

However, like chess, the game requires you to manually pick up pieces and understand their movements. Nothing stops you from making illegal moves, so you’ll have to keep an eye on your opponent.

Grade: C

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Shuffleboard – The shuffleboard table pictured isn’t actually from the game. My phone died on me before I could get the last pic, and I needed to get this review out, so I just took a generic pic from a bar so you know what it looks like in case you’re unfamiliar.

Playing shuffleboard in PSVR was difficult because the controls weren’t as precise as you’d hope when playing a game on such a narrow table. Still, it was good enough to get a decent game going for a couple minutes.

Grade: B-

Sports Bar VR very much feels like a sandbox environment and you can tell developers are still getting their feet wet with these platforms. While walking around the bar, you can throw darts, break out your pool stick, or even drink a beer.

As you do random things (like pull out darts while playing skee ball), you gain XP that can be used for personalizations, so you’re encouraged to explore the environment.

While you can play solo offline (or against an AI opponent in some games) the real fun to be had in Sports Bar VR is in challenging a friend online. Both of your avatars will be in the same room and you can even talk to each other like you’re in the same room.

If you have no friends, you can always pick up a game of pool against a random online opponent (unless of course you’re a woman, in which case you’re likely to be virtually raped trying to play online).

Final Thoughts

Sports Bar VR is a PSVR port of Pool Nation VR for the Vive. The room-scale VR of Vive made Pool Nation one of the best VR launch experiences on that platform. However scaling down to the PSVR system proved difficult for Perilous Orbit to pull off.

Still, it’s a playable game and well worth the $20 entry fee, as it’s one of few PSVR launch titles with any replay value.

If Cherry Pop Games and Perilous Orbit continue releasing new content for the game, it definitely has potential, but in its current form, Sports Bar VR falls just short of being considered a classic video game.

Final Grade: C

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Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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